Volume is King: Youth Quarterback Development

This past fall season I started using the MotusQB sleeve on a quarterback for an 11-U youth football team. I am a quarterback coach by trade but also the father of a young QB. I wanted to understand more about what’s actually going on during practice, in terms of repetitions and how much throwing we were actually doing. I thought the insight from the data collected could be useful for other parents and/or coaches that have an interest in monitoring volume, arm health, and improvement.

The study ( I use that term loosely) was conducted in-season and ran about 2.5-months on an experienced (relative to age) 12-year-old quarterback using Motus QB sleeve. Here is a link to the Motus website where you can purchase the sleeve or learn more about it. https://motusglobal.com/motusqb.html It is a tool that allows you to track measurables that help break down the throw into very specific categories.

First, here is a little background. My Quarterback has been playing competitively for three years. He has been involved in a throwing sport for the past five years (started baseball at 7). We have been throwing the football on a semi-regular basis during the offseason. We have not monitored workouts in terms of volume or time, rather just get enough work to make some improvement while keeping the sessions fun. We generally play catch for periods of 20-30 minutes, usually 5-10 minutes of structure, the rest unscripted play. We’ve participated flag football during the spring for an 8 week season with only throwing during game day, also playing other positions. In addition, he has attended approximately 10 X 90-minute youth quarterback workouts annually with other similar age QBs. We did no additional physical performance training outside of football practice.

Our team uses a Wilson TDJ (junior size) football, this would be our QBs second season using it. He turned 12 in mid-October, he was 11 at the beginning of the season. We started this season of organized football practice during the last week of July. We had almost five weeks of throwing on average three times per week before putting on the Motus QB sleeve.

This screenshot is from August 24th, the second day wearing the sleeve. Max fingertip velocity was 38. Closely correlating with his max distance in the throw. 39/40 yards. From the data collected we immediately we noticed a lack of throwing volume during football practice. We would average between 30 and 50 throws per practice when we first put the sleeve on. That wasn’t enough to sustain an acceptable level of improvement.

What We Learned

Lack of throwing volume during football practice was a major issue. Just based purely on my experience from training quarterbacks for the past 12 years, I knew that the number of reps needed to increase in order to get the most out of our practice time. The total number of throws included warmups.

What We Changed

It’s quite simple, throw more. With an understanding of how youth practices can go, we formulated a plan based on what we thought was a doable number of throws that would help improve, but not overwork the arm. Our new practice goal was to reach minimum 100 throws per practice. Essentially double our reps. Three practices per week would give us 300 to 350 throws per week without games included.

Results

We started to see immediate progress with this formula. Subjectively, I could tell the ball was coming out of the hand better and more consistent on throwing accuracy. Honestly, it was hard to maintain 100 throws per practice because of defensively focused days, but setting that goal kept us accountable. Some days we would only get 60 throws but we always knew what did and based on the data after practice. We would supplement canceled practices or practices where we didn’t get enough throwing reps with throwing sessions to make sure we hit our repetition goal. Looking back now, these were invaluable to progress in our passing game and player development.
augsepoct-throwing-motus
I frequently asked about arm soreness or “is your arm tired?” related questions. The answer was always no. The only time we noticed a level of fatigue was towards the end of a session or practice that reached 120 plus throws. We knew from that, it was a good benchmark to work towards.

lock 48 motus
Towards the middle of October is where we started to see a large jump in velocity. Creeping into the 40’s during most workouts, on Oct 21st we had a throw reach 46 MPH. I thought this may be an error at first but we consistently had one or two throws every practice that registered in the mid to low 40’s. We had one throw that measured 48 mph.

Conclusion:

One of the biggest takeaways from this was volume is king. With the constraints of youth football, getting quality throwing repetitions can be difficult. With limited coaching staff, spending time getting repetitions is also very difficult because you have to focus on other positions and what is best for the team. Youth football is developmental, so a win at all cost attitude may help short term but I wanted to make sure our team benefited long term. Other players improve from throwing more as well. Receivers get more reps helping them expedite their development.

A couple more lessons I learned. You cannot get much more throwing out of team period. I would suggest routes on air or even a situation where a coach takes a couple players and the QB to work on specific routes, drills or anything that allows the QB to throw. Even defensive drills, let your QB throw as painful as that may be sometimes. Throwing to much during team takes away from making sure your offense is balanced. This, of course, this not true if you throw more than you run during games.

This was intended only for youth quarterbacks. I do intend to dig deeper into high school and college quarterback volume in the future.